Tuesday, 27 June 2017

big tent politics

Published by the German newspaper Welt am Sonntag (auf Englisch, as Boing Boing reports), veteran investigative journalist Seymour Hirsh—responsible for exposing the massacre at My Lai and equal-opportunity critic of US capers—shares a series of conversations between an American soldier (AS) and a security advisor (SA) that was leaked to him regarding April’s retaliatory missile strike on a Syrian airbase, heavily redacted for security reasons.

AS: This is bad… Things are spooling up.

SA: You may not have seen trumps press conference yesterday. He’s bought into the media story without asking to see the Intel. We are likely to get our asses kicked by the Russians. Fucking dangerous. Where are the godamn adults? The failure of the chain of command to tell the President the truth, whether he wants to hear it or not, will go down in history as one of our worst moments.

AS: I don't know. None of this makes any sense. We KNOW that there was no chemical attack. The Syrians struck a weapons cache (a legitimate military target) and there was collateral damage. That's it. They did not conduct any sort of a chemical attack.

SA: There has been a hidden agenda all along. This is about trying to ultimately go after Iran. What the people around Trump do not understand is that the Russians are not a paper tiger and that they have more robust military capability than we do.

This dangerous, deadly incompetent leadership style is about to be put to the test again, as Dear Leader predictably is planning on staging a distraction to side-line public scrutiny as the Senate moves to vote on the future form of healthcare in the United States. The fact that he’d resort to taking lives, putting others at risk and squandering millions on a pretence and as a side-show (not to mention exacerbating already strained international relations) in order to push through a tax-break for the wealthy swaddled in medical insurance reform is beyond despicable. Anyone colluding with his wanton cannibalism is deserving of the same harsh criticism.

Monday, 26 June 2017

symbols, signals and noise

Finding renewed meaning in its message in the escalating and frenetic age of emails and emoji, this 1953 featurette based on the research and studies of communication theorist Claude Elwood Shannon for the IBM corporation was created by the design-duo Ray and Charles Eames (click here and here for some of their other work). ‘A Communications Primer’ targeted engineers and encouraged them to apply the suite of tools that Shannon developed to their own work.

Well ahead of the era when machines became ubiquitous either in businesses or at home, the discussion of cues and clamour seems just as valid filtered through all the post-war years of progress as they did at the time, as does the central tenant of Shannon’s theory—that information is a measure of one’s freedom of choice in expression and messaging. Be sure to visit Æon magazine at the link up top for more thought-provoking videos and essays.


t-kimono: classic garment re-tailored in partnership with a Norwegian studio

born on the fourth of july: many argue that independence is contingent on international recognition, via TYWKIWDBI

snarknado: flooding in the US carries buoys of fire-ants, via Super Punch

the mother of invention: expectant father Philippe Kahn came up with the idea of the camera phone to share his daughter’s birth in real-time, via Dave Log v 3

crystal ball: to the uninitiated, these fortune-telling booths of Hong Kong could be offering any number of professional services, via the Everlasting Blört

ostinato: a custom-build instrument designed to produce that tension-building music for scary movies 

grand rounds or house-call

While the US over-class is conniving to liberate millions from any semblance of health-security, an innovate company in Seattle called Artefact is designing the preventative healthcare delivery platform that could make, as Fast Company reports, all those shrill arguments and dire predictions somewhat of a moot point.
A less sinister narrative than we usually associate with the internet of things, one’s prying devices’ paternalistic well-meaning are reframed as one’s partners in health and will collectively summon (at a free moment on one’s calendar without having to worry about scheduling conflicts, day or night) a fully automated, mobile doctor’s office to take one’s vitals, provide a diagnosis, and perhaps even a treatment plan and dispense a prescription—or make a referral to its human counterparts, as needed. There’s no reason that healthcare should be so fraught and atrociously expensive in a rich and developed nation, but the fact that such a vision has not yet attracted any financial champions makes me think people are too fearful of the disruption to industry and aren’t undeserving of being under-served. What do you think? Without the cadet-cartels that are put in place to keep of safe but are often just a profit opportunity, there’s probably not much money in keeping us healthy—without keeping us in suspense. Given the state of affordable housing and infrastructure, maybe there are too many details to work out and physicians on wheels ought to be deployed to poorer nations with resource stretched too thin already that might truly appreciate it.


Although there seems to be some reassuring buy-in surrounding this programme to launch over seven hundred small, expendable satellites into low, geostationary orbit in order to expand broadband coverage for the US market does still leave me with some feelings of trepidation.
With net neutrality already essentially doomed and the relative ease, both economically and technologically, with which one could extend free, quality internet access to every individual on Earth, it makes me mistrust those administrators that don’t own space but rather regulate the airwaves and serve at the pleasure of Dear Leader. Instead of something useful and magnanimous like the global positioning system (a US Navy by-product), I’m fearful that it will play out like Project West-Ford, that seeded the upper atmosphere with an artificial ring of half a million tiny needles, without consulting any other of Earth’s residents, that was potential catastrophic, short-sighted and left debris that still raining down more than six decades later. What do you think? An enduring venture with more partners that is open to all seems far more worthwhile, rather than something that seems a bit slap-dash. What do you think? Who is going to clean up the mess that these satellites leave once the enterprise stops being profitable and their care is abandoned?

Sunday, 25 June 2017

an ox is as good as a best

Lewis and Quark have been allowing neural networks to be expressive in many different creative venues and now the intrepid duo (previously here and here) have given their project a compilation of idioms and proverbs to try to understand.
Although the computer’s interpretation of human mythos is rather inscrutable, it seems to have an unexplained affinity for oxen, despite there being only three references in the entire data-set. Some of the phrases that the machine produced could almost pass as parables, especially foreign language ones that need to be translated and explained for the sake of non-native audience: “Death when it comes will have no sheep.” “A good face is a letter to get out of the fire.” “A good anvil does not make the most noise.” Others made far less sense: “No sweet is half the barn door after the cat.” “There is not fire and step on your dog and stains the best sermon.” Be sure to visit the link above for more examples and more on the methodologies of machine-learning.